The Falcons Have Failed to Add Good Pass Rushers
By: Adam Hulse
After a disappointing 2020 season where the Falcons were only able to come away with 4 total wins and finished in the last place in their division, they will head into this offseason looking for ways to improve the team. They have plenty of talent on the offense, but the defense leaves much to be desired. They will need to get better on that side of the ball if they want to get back to competing for a playoff spot next season.
The Falcons were a below average defensive team last season to say the least. They finished the year ranked 29th in total defense and 19th in scoring defense. A big reason for their struggles is their lack of a consistent pass rush, which was demonstrated by being a bottom 10 team in the league in sacks generated.
Signing a high-quality pass rusher should be a priority for the Falcons this offseason if they want to try and make another run at the playoffs. Not one player on their whole roster last season even recorded five sacks all year. That’s a major problem! Let’s take a look at three free agents that could potentially be their solution.
A 5 year veteran edge defender out of the University of Maryland, the 25 year old Yannick Ngakoue has already shown that he is a premier pass rusher. His consistent production speaks for itself. He will be a highly desired target this offseason and for very good reason.
Through 5 seasons in the league between the Jaguars, Vikings, and Ravens, Ngakoue has already accumulated an impressive 45.5 sacks. That’s an average of just over 9 sacks per season, with his highest total being 12 sacks in the 2017 season. Pressuring opposing quarterbacks is his specialty, and that is a quality that will always help to improve any defense, buit especially one like the Falcons.
Ngakoue just seems to be an ideal fit for the Falcons. Deion Jones lead the team last year with just 4.5 sacks, and Ngakoue averages more than double that per season in his career. His talents are exactly what this team is currently missing.
One of the most talented pass rushers not just in free agency but in the entire league is Jadeveon Clowney. A 28 year old out of the University of South Carolina, he has been a force when he is on the field. He knows how to do one thing well, and it’s getting after opposing quarterbacks.
He has put up some solid statistics in his 7 seasons between the Texans, Seahawks, and Titans. He has 32 career sacks to go with 10 careers forced fumbles. Recording a strip on almost a third of his sacks is extremely impressive. When averaged against games played, he accounts for about 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles across a 16 game span.
Clowney is the type player that is very productive and highly efficient. The only red flag is that he has only played a full season once in his career. That may be a risk that the Falcons have to take on Clowney because when he is healthy, he is one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game.
Also at 28 years old and a 7 year veteran edge rusher is Shaq Barrett. He was drafted out of Colorado State University by the Denver Broncos where he spent his first 5 seasons before joining the Tampa Bay Bucs. Since changing teams he has transformed into one of the absolute best pass rushers in the league.
Barrett never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season while with the Broncos. Then in the 2019 season, his first with the Bucs, he broke out in a big way when he recorded 19.5 sacks! He followed that up in 2020 by fighting through a ton of double teams and still recording another 8 sacks while playing a major role in the Bucs championship run.
After these past 2 highly productive seasons as an edge rusher, Barrett has cemented himself as one of the best in the league. The Bucs will probably try their absolute hardest to keep him in Tampa Bay, but he becomes available then the Falcons would be wise to pursue him aggressively. He would be an absolute game changer for them.